‘David’ in New Resting Place

Times Staff Writer

A replica of Michelangelo’s sculpture “David” that formerly graced Forest Lawn cemetery in Cypress was installed Thursday on the Cal State Fullerton campus--in pieces. The 13 1/2-foot-long marble work, toppled during the October, 1987, earthquake, will not be repaired.

Although the original sculpture is a heroic, towering work, Don Lagerberg, a Cal State Fullerton professor of studio art who came up with the idea of moving the pieces to the campus, said he sees no problem with displaying the sculpture in its broken state.

He acknowledges that it “changes the content of the piece,” but he believes it is “very emotional to see this great big figure lying in pieces on the ground. It’s scary in an awesome way. Like a great power brought down, . . . a fallen champion.


“The spirit isn’t weakened, though. (The idea is that) you can only support causes if you’re willing to take risks.

“It’s an image that belongs to everyone and all cultures, so I think that makes it especially appropriate for public art. It’s a youth facing an unknown and a great challenge.”

Michelangelo was 26 when the cathedral of Florence commissioned him in 1501 to create a marble statue of the biblical shepherd boy who defeated the giant Goliath. The muscular statue, inspired by an antique image of Hercules, is considered the earliest monumental statue of the High Renaissance.

With the fearsome four-year rule of the reformer Savonarola fresh in their minds, civic leaders saw Michelangelo’s finished work as a symbol of the Florentine Republic’s victory over tyrants. The statue was placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria. In 1873 it was moved to Florence’s Accademia; a modern copy now stands in the Piazza.

Lagerberg’s interest in bringing the Forest Lawn copy to the university began when he saw a newspaper photo of the fallen sculpture published after the earthquake. He wanted the 9-ton piece to be installed in a central location, he said, where it would be “meaningful to people walking around campus looking for values and purpose in life.” The copy lies near the school library.

Forest Lawn donated the sculpture, which had been a landmark at the Cypress cemetery since 1967. The cost of about $15,000 to move and install the work was raised from Associated Students, Inc., the Cal State Fullerton Art Alliance and fund-raising events organized through the dean’s office.


Lagerberg says he hopes to have three plaques installed at the base of the sculpture “discussing David as a symbol, the significance of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and the whys and wherefores of how this thing physically came to be.”